Fixing a Childs Rocking Chair

My wife’s cousin’s husband (does that make him my cousin in-law?) has a childhood rocking chair he wanted me to fix. My wife Anita brought to me and asked me what I could do with it. I looked it over for a few minutes and noticed that it had old glue repairs and screws all over the place trying to hold everything together. It must mean a lot to him if he tried so hard to keep intact, so I decided that it I’ll give it my best to return this chair to its former glory.

The first thing I had to do is carefully disassemble the top of the rocker and save as many pieces as possible. The seat was a piece of MDF that I was going to use as a template for the new seat.

The crest rail was all beaten up so I had to cut a new piece out of poplar using the original as a template.

I then used the holes off the old crest rail as a pattern for the new crest rail and drilled the appropriate size holes.

Since I was using the seat as a template, transferring the holes to the new seat was easy. I simply stuck the auger bit in the hole at the appropriate angle and drilled through. I realize that in theory that this doesn’t exactly work because the angle in which I drilled the holes through the new seat won’t perfectly line up with the where the holes are in the original seat, but the difference was miniscule and not enough for me to be concerned with.

After the holes were drilled, I shaped the seat on the band saw and cleaned up the edges with rasps and files.

I needed to make new spindles underneath the arm stretchers as one of them looked like a dog chewed on it. Luckily I had a couple of short 5/8″ dowels that would work.

I needed to put a 1/2″ tenon on them to fit in the 1/2″ holes I drilled through the seat. I used my tenon cutter and brace to do the job cutting a tenon on both ends of both pieces.

The test fit looks pretty good. Now I needed to make 3/8″ dowels for the back spindles.

I didn’t have a 3/8″ dowels on hand but I do have my Stanley No 77 dowel machine with a 3/8″ cutter in it. I actually sold this tool on eBay earlier this year, but the guy I sold it to claimed it was damaged in shipping so he returned it. I took it as a sign that I should keep it.

I grabbed some maple and cut 7/16″ square stock on the table saw. I then took the stock and shoved it into the cutter while turning the handle which makes the cutter head spin cutting the square stock round.

In no time flat I get perfect 3/8″ dowels. I cut them to size and stuck them in the holes to act as the back spindles.

After some sanding and glue, the rocking chair is back in business. Now Anita will paint it and give it back to her cousin’s husband.

UPDATE 12/24/13

The rocking chair has been repainted just in time for Christmas. My wife Anita did a nice job painting it with chalk paint and distressing it a little bit. We’re on our way to my Anita’s cousin’s house to deliver it to her husband. I’m sure it will be well received.

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4 Replies to “Fixing a Childs Rocking Chair”

  1. Thanks for this post. I’m a Stanley 77 fan, and work on a project connecting K-12 youth and the Alaska boreal forest by making things with local resources. So students are taking lengths of birch firewood, making square stock, and then running the sticks though the Stanley 77 to make beautiful knitting needles, chopsticks, and hair chops. I’ll show them this story next time we use the Stanley: They’ll really like knowing they’re using the same tool as you. Your portfolio is beautiful, your story inspiring. Best luck! Will you post a picture when your wife’s done painting her cousin’s husband’s chair? Thanks again.

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